Basketball started a couple weeks ago and this year there were no tears shed on the way to the Roc’s first practice. The nerves were still present, but the tears were absent, a little less anxious this year. It helps to have an idea of what is going to happen. The fear of the unknown is one of the Roc’s worst enemies. It also helps that the Roc has the same two coaches from last year. At basketball opening night back in December only one of the coaches had signed up, and when the other dad arrived and realized that his son was on the Roc’s team again, he asked the first coach if he would like some help again this year. His wife had signed his son up, and hadn’t signed her husband up to coach. My eyes filled up with tears when I heard him ask the first coach if he’d like some help, I knew he would be helping the Roc during games as he did last year. GC told me later that he asked the first coach how he came to be the Roc’s coach again this year, and apparently at the coaches meeting, the first coach asked to have the Roc when he found out the Roc was playing again this year. Hearing that brought tears to my eyes, again. There are some good people in this world.
It’s been fun to see the Roc during practices this year. They separated the kids out this year so only two teams are in the gym where he practices. Therefore there is a lot less noise, movement, and general chaos. This year there is a bit more of an ease about the Roc during practices. He doesn’t look as lost, he listens to the coaches instead of looking to us, he concentrates, and he smiles! I often see him do his “happy hop” while he is waiting in line during a passing or shooting drill. He tries so hard!
Last year the games were harder. He looked lost, kept his arms down by his sides, and was very rigid in his movements. He never knew which end of the court he was supposed to be at and he was always at the back of the pack when the boys ran from one end to the other. He never got in with this kids, preferring to stay on the outskirts, and he was never passed the ball.
There is definite difference in the Roc’s comfort level during the games this year. This year the second coach has been helping him during games, and we added a couple phrases the coach says while out on the court with him, “Defense Roc! Guard your guy!” and “Offense Roc, Get open for the ball!” to help him remember what he is supposed to be doing. He stays with the pack and is quicker to move with his team from each end of the court. The Roc requests to guard the same guy when it is his turn to play, a huge step in speaking up for himself, and he tries hard to stay with him. A few times the ball has come near the Roc, and he looks so surprised to see it. The shock when the ball bounces right in front of him or off his fingertips (because he always has his arms in the air) is apparent (and adorable.) He tries to get open while on offense, but so far he has been fairly easy for the opposing teammates to guard.
Last Saturday, about halfway through the game the Roc was open and a teammate passed him the ball…and he caught it! He looked surprised to have the ball in his hands and because he was near the hoop GC and a couple other people sitting near us shouted out, “Shoot it! Shoot it!!” I felt the collective pull for the Roc as he raised the ball and released it…and it went IN!!! I cheered, GC cheered, his coach cheered, and I heard the parents around me cheering. But his reaction to the ball going in was priceless. His face split open into a big grin and he was beaming pride. He stopped and looked at us sitting on the sidelines before he realized he was supposed to run down to the other end of the court.
“Oh, that was adorable!” one of the mom’s who knows about the Roc leaned over and said to me.
“I’m going to cry!” I told her, waving my hands in front of my eyes as they filled up with tears.
I am grateful that so far, at this age, it has been about learning the game, practicing the skills, trying hard, and having fun. The score is not kept during the games, and the parents I have sat near have been positive, clapping for good plays, giggling when the boys end up rolling on the floor grabbing for the ball, and groaning at missed baskets, no matter the team.
This has been a wonderful sport for the Roc to try. He is learning so much and it is helping him in so many ways. I am so grateful to the coaches who are so positive and really encourage him.
I’m so proud of him for all that he has done and that he keeps trying. I know it isn’t easy and he is nervous and anxious and the pace of the game is overwhelming for him. But he keeps trying.
He is amazing.